According to our friends at wikepeida the term SOCIAL is referred to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence and interaction.
I have been an internet marketer for over 8 years now, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with agencies in which I’ve learned a lot. So the other day, I decided to put myself on the other side of the social media marketing sphere and conduct an study–more like experiment to test how social, is socially networking.
Note: The Channel I choose to study was Internet Marketing.
With the current popularity and off-the-charts traffic growth, Internet social networking is consider to be one of the most important internet marketing strategies for marketers to tap into. Television networks have gone social, newspapers went social, movie stars have facebook and twitter, politicians use tweeter and social bookmarks in their sites, President Obama used YouTube in his presidential campaign, and even the Pope has a twitter account. Today, regular people all over the social sphere are on twitter asking others to follow them, to learn about them, to admire them, to gain some kind of popularity, respect and even adoration. The internet has offered people the opportunity to reach out and be known by the masses. I call this The Everyone Wants To Be a Movie Start Era.–joke:) But those who send you requests to befriend them, to follow them, and eventually accept all the cool stuff they want to talk about and promote, would they eventually engage in a conversation with you?
I conducted a little experiment throughout some social networks like Tweeter, Youtube and Facebook by allowing anyone to contact me and, and send me all the info and links they wish. I started of by opening a brand new youtube, facebook and tweeter accounts–not under my name. Sure enough, after I accepted some people to befriend me, soon the friends of friends came knocking my door requesting to be my bff, too. Someone would think, “well this is nice, I’m participating in their own experiment; we’re building a network of shared interest here.” The following, from me and others, makes their blog, tweeter, or facebook look very popular (the more people following the better that is the norm). The traffic help them generate social acquisition for their marketing affords. All sounds good so far, but when the time came to ask for reciprocation, the story was a different one.
I started with tweeter. I added a couple of people that seems to share the same interest as me (digital marketing), and soon enough, the friends of their friends requested me to follow them. I even got direct messages welcoming me as a friend or fellow follower. After a couple of weeks as an active follower (meaning @follower like you link and couple of RTs), I then tried to contact them back. It came to my surprised to learned that these individuals who had sent me tons of tweets and links my way every day, had removed and unfollowed me right after I followed them. Then tried replies, and including @amigos, but nothing.
So there I was, staring at my TweetDeck as if I was staring at a Television set, receiving approximately 300 random message a day, from people that only wanted to talk about themselves, and did not want anything to do with me. All of the Sutton, the social network didn’t seem too social, it seem more like a one way street to me. And unexpectedly, I turned into an spectator in that the conversation was 100% about them, and zero about me. Is this real social communication? I then figured why I was in this place. It was obvious that it was nothing personal. I discovered that the reason behind this behavior was as ancient as the human race itself, self-indulgent, and seek of self-interest. These people just want to be able to reach out to you, but wont like for you to reach them back. They want to be popular, and be followed and nothing more.
And for the ones that use twitter to promote business, those only want to build lists and turn their followers into noting else but a glorify piece of database. There is no consumer engagement here.
So, the game goes like this. They follow you, so you can follow them. And once you’ve followed them, they automatically unfollow Why? 1) Because on twitter it looks really good if a person has many followers without having to follow many. In other words, when people see that a person have lots of followers and less followings, it means this person most be real popular and something important is going on with their tweets–and people automatically follow them. And 2) they simply have no real interested in reading your stuff. Now, I’m not saying everyone is doing this, but this is a practice often used and seen on tweeter within the online marketing arena.
My next experiment was facebook, I allowed people (and friends of friends) to add me and contact me. I allowed them to post their cool stuff on my wall, and they even contacted me directly through my inbox with a greeting message. I also added a few that had a Facebook bookmark/open graph Like button on their site (no movies stars or important people, just bloggers like me). Then I posted very positive comments about their sharing on their wall. Few weeks went by, and by now, I’m one of their regular fans. Their post in my wall keep piling up–some of the post came from Social media experts who work in the field, and from whom I was expecting higher respond rate (thinking they know better about how social works), since social is about two way communication, meaning engagement, I though.
So after two months of one-way street communication, it was time to put Social to the test. I contacted all of my facebook bffs this time, by using the send a message option, which goes to their private in-boxes, and I also posted a question (not ad) under the comments box beneath their individual post on my wall. I wrote something relevant to their conversation, but instead of writing a “GREAT POST comment, I made a question– expecting them to reciprocate with an answer. I waited a day, and then two days. By the third day I decided to put another question, this time, beneath their own comments they’ve posted on their wall. Sure enough, I learned that I was not in a 50% 50% social interaction. It was more like 100% them and 0% my way.
Youtube, the demographics seem to reach more teens than the usual suspects on tweeter and facebook. And even though I didn’t get spam by self-indulgent people and promotions, and I find their comments to be more sincere, the respond rate was similar to those on facebook and twitter.
This goes for hundreds of post. After months, I asked myself this question: is Social Media really social?
What do you think? Tell us your experience.
SIDE NOTE: On a positive note, I conducted a different experiment with facebook–with my real account. I will write a post about it later. The case is about a Fan facebook page. The Fan Facebook page reach out to people globally, and in less than week the page had 27,356 joining. Making what happened next an unprecedented facebook social event.
Ok, I won’t say more. I will write about the Fan facebook case soon, but let’s just say the final results can be seen in this video:
This goes to show that ordinary people and consumers on social networks are keen to interact with you, and online marketers are missing the picture, and losing an asset that could be put to good use. Listening to the user and engaging with them is where social communication really occurs.
This message goes to all the social marketers out there. We need to really interact with people, not just send them tons of links and not care what they have to say. If you show no respect or interest for your own costumers or consumers, very soon they won’t care about you either.
Social Media is vital media, and it is about people, about two way communication, about engagement and learning what you consumers/costumers want. This way syou can mold your marketing strategies and products to satisfy those needs. We need to treat our social network with respect (not as a mass database list), and we need to be genuine with our followers– if we want to obtain long-lasting social results and long term followers that will turn into consumers, clients or users of our products, services or brand.
Social media has to be a customer-oriented strategy, lets us all marketers never forget that.